Financial & Insurance Conference Professionals (FICP) could have gone hybrid—bosses with a tight budget may even say should have—but the organization opted for intimate, up close and personal. Several chairs with FICP shared what it took in recent Smart Meetings webinar, “Adapt and Execute: A behind the Scenes Look at Planning a Major Industry Event.”

In this webinar, Jennifer Squeglia, incoming chair for FICP and independent contractor; Steve Bove, executive director with FICP; and Michael Burke, director of conference and travel services for The Hanover Insurance Group and chair member of 2021 FICP Annual Conference, talked about the organization’s upcoming annual conference, their decision process and how it was impacted by Covid-19.

Hybrid: A No Go

Bove hopes FICP’s upcoming event will serve as an example of what can be done in person. “Our hope is that once [attendees] attend this event, they’ll be able to go back to their leadership and incorporate many of the things we’ll be doing at our event this year, and [see] that safe, face-to-face meetings can resume,” he said.

The intent to exclude hybrid was motivated by the desire to provide all association members with an equal experience, something Burke and his colleagues believed a hybrid event could not achieve. “When we looked at hybrid, we didn’t feel that people looking in in real-time at our event would have the same experience,” Bova said. “What we’re going to do instead is record our general sessions and other features of our event. People can plug in at their leisure; it doesn’t have to be in real time.”

Bova said many felt that offering a virtual meeting option would restrict in-person attendance. “Those whose budgets have been slashed or who can’t attend are going to their bosses, and [their bosses] are going to ask, ‘Well, isn’t there a virtual component?’”

Attendance is strong, Bova said, but not anything like it would be in a normal year. They’ve estimated roughly 150 attendees, compared to its normal 250-275.

Requiring the Vax

Two months ago the organization announced it would require all attendees to be vaccinated, Burke said. “That’s a political hot potato—the opinions on vaccination—but we felt it was our responsibility to keep our attendees safe and also not to put undue stress on the local resources in the event,” he said.

The event’s apt-for-the-time location is something Burke feels proud about. “The nice thing about being in Phoenix this year is that we have so much opportunity to do things outside,” Burke said. “All of our meals, breakfast, lunch and evening events will all be outdoors; our networking breaks will all be outdoors.” All three nights of the event will be outdoors.

To be sure all attendees are vaccinated, FICP will be using the Clear app, where attendees can show digital proof of vaccination. “We’re not housing any of that sensitive information. That’s all being done through Clear,” Burke said. “There will be exceptions for those who may have a religious or health reason [for not being vaccinated], and they need to provide that proof to us within a certain amount of time.”

To prevent confusion on the day of the event, the organization has been thorough in its communication to attendees that vaccination disclosure will be required. “We don’t want somebody to show up and say they didn’t know there was a vaccination requirement. We’ve been very diligent about communicating and communicating frequently,” Burke said. While Arizona doesn’t require masks to be worn, FICP’s event will require them, per CDC guidelines.

“We’re not over-promising the health and safety,” Burke said. “We want it to be a comfortable event that people want to attend but aren’t going to walk away from saying that was awful, that there were too many restrictions.”

Going Mobile

“We’ve got a multipage plan on what will be done in the event that [someone catches Covid]” Burke said. “A large group of our attendees will be coming from Vegas from IMEX, so we know that the chances are—I hate to say good—but greater than they would be if they weren’t attending that event before.”

“We’ll have health and safety protocols on our mobile event app,” Burke said. “We’ll still have some printed materials, but for the most part everything is on a mobile event app or promoting mobile check-in at the hotel, mobile key, those type of things. Some may say that it’s probably overkill, but we think those things will help to make some people more comfortable.”

Bova picked up after Burke, discussing the financial planning behind the upcoming event. Bove and Burke also answered questions from viewers regarding topics such as event security and the biggest hurdles association members had to overcome to attend in person. Listen to the rest here.

FICP’s annual conference registration is still open and will be held Nov. 14-17 at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa.